Patients' preferences for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) relate to their perception
about the likelihood of success of the procedure. There is evidence that the lay public
largely base their perceptions about CPR on their experience of the portrayal of CPR
in the media. The medical profession has generally been critical of the portrayal
of CPR on medical drama programmes although there is no recent evidence to support
To compare the patient characteristics, cause and success rates of cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) on medical television drama with published resuscitation statistics.
88 episodes of television medical drama were reviewed (26 episodes of Casualty, Casualty,
25 episodes of Holby City, 23 episodes of Grey's Anatomy and 14 episodes of ER) screened
between July 2008 and April 2009. The patient's age and sex, medical history, presumed
cause of arrest, use of CPR and immediate and long term survival rate were recorded.
Immediate survival and survival to discharge following CPR.
There were a total of 76 cardio-respiratory arrests and 70 resuscitation attempts
in the episodes reviewed. The immediate success rate (46%) did not differ significantly
from published real life figures (p=0.48). The resuscitation process appeared to follow
current guidelines. Survival (or not) to discharge was rarely shown. The average age
of patients was 36 years and contrary to reality there was not an age related difference
in likely success of CPR in patients less than 65 compared with those 65 and over
(p=0.72). The most common cause of cardiac arrest was trauma with only a minor proportion
of arrests due to cardio-respiratory causes such as myocardial infarction.
Whilst the immediate success rate of CPR in medical television drama does not significantly
differ from reality the lack of depiction of poorer medium to long term outcomes may
give a falsely high expectation to the lay public. Equally the lay public may perceive
that the incidence and likely success of CPR is equal across all age groups.